Engineering Standards and the Importance of Professional Registration

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Sir Frances Bacon is famously credited for the proverb ‘Knowledge is power’, a statement that highlights the importance of understanding over physical strength. We have the ability to learn a wealth of new skills every day, however research states that practicing these skills is vital to our retention. Here, Glyn Shawcross, Group Design Manager at engineering solutions provider, Boulting Ltd explores the importance of working with accredited contractors who invest in training for employees.

Learning and development doesn’t stop after finishing school, college or university — we continue to learn things throughout our lives. Like many industries, engineering is constantly evolving, particularly following the introduction of Industry 4.0 and the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT). These two concepts have revolutionised the sector, forcing businesses to adapt their processes if they want to stay ahead of the competition.

As new technologies and principles are introduced into the market, it’s important that staff undergo relevant training so that they can adapt and efficiently incorporate new technologies and practices into their work.

Becoming professionally registered

The term, ‘Engineer’ is associated with an array of jobs; from fixing a washing machine to designing and installing new motor control centres. But, how do you know if the engineer you are working with has the skills to complete the job effectively and efficiently? Professional registration and accreditation is one way that standards are monitored.

With over 222,000 registered members, the Engineering Council is the UK’s regulatory body for the engineering profession. It sets and maintains the standards of professional competence and ethics in the industry, allowing employers and clients to have confidence in the skills of those working on a job.

The men and women who aspire to be recognised as professional engineers and technicians require independent assessment of their competence and commitment, and the UK Standard for Professional Engineering Competence (UK Spec) provides the means to achieve this.  The UK Spec identifies and describes the requirements that have to be met for registration as an Engineering Technician (EngTech), Incorporated Engineer (IEng) or Chartered Engineer (CEng).

To achieve registered status, individuals are rigorously assessed on their capabilities, commitment and knowledge of the industry and the latest technological advancements.

The first step towards registration is to join an institution that is licensed to asses an individual’s skills and dedication to professional development.

For engineers, there are 35 licenced professional engineering institutions that can assess candidates for professional registration and continuing development.

At Boulting all engineering and design employees are actively encouraged to join an institute and are nurtured and developed to professional registration. The majority of Boulting employees align with the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET).

Continuing professional development

Continuing professional development (CPD) refers to the maintenance and development of knowledge and skills relevant to ensuring you remain competent as a professional Engineer or Technician.  Development programmes are commonplace across many industries, however their success requires buy-in from both the employee and employer.

The Engineering Council aspire for all professional Engineering Institutions to introduce monitoring of members CPD records.  The IET has introduced a CPD Monitoring scheme, supported by CPD recording functionality in IET Career Manager (online software tool provided free for all IET members).

To meet the Engineering Council requirements members are targeted with undertaking and recording a minimum of 30 hours of CPD training and development each year, (reduced target of 10 hours of CPD for retired members or those on maternity leave) which can be broken down into personal technical knowledge and skills, job role technical knowledge and skills and personal soft skills.

Ben More, E & I designer at Boulting, has recently joined the IET. He said, “Since entering the design office three years ago, the IET CPD and career manager has helped me to achieve EngTech TMIET status. As well as having access to multiple resources, including regulations and case studies, which help with my day to day work, the programme had also helped me progress with my academic studies as I am studying part time for a BEng Hons Electrical & Electronic Engineering Degree.

“CPD is encouraged by Boulting, which voluntarily runs lunch and learns throughout the year on various topics, ranging from regulation amendments through to emerging products.”

CPD is not yet mandatory within Engineering, however many companies do encourage and support staff in undertaking it. At Boulting, there are a number of senior members of staff who assist with professional registration applications and helping guide staff with CPD planning and recording.

Best practice

For most engineering decisions, a standard can be followed to ensure an application is installed and works correctly.  Many of these standards and processes have existed for some time, allowing engineers to learn basic skills through training. IIoT has led to the creation of many new innovative technologies, which at present do not have standards that can be easily followed.  It is in situations like this that sharing and promoting design best practice is important.

In 2004, Design Best Practice website and associated forum were established by a network of companies that seek to improve design and safety by openly sharing information to help promote safe practices and reduce risks during construction.  Boulting were one of the founder members and are an ongoing active member of Design Best Practice.  The website encourages the sharing of case studies, observations and provides a forum where design engineers can discuss issues they have faced and more importantly, how they overcame them. The website is endorsed by the HSE and is a great source of knowledge for design and construction best practices

Benefiting the customer

Professional registration and accreditation not only improves career prospects for the individual but also and increases technical credibility for the employer, it also brings benefits to the customer.

With the internationally recognised standards put in place by the Engineering Council, clients can be confident that the work delivered is of the highest quality, and will achieve the objectives it was set out to accomplish. They can be assured that work is completed ethically and sustainably.

When delivering engineering solutions knowledge is most certainly power, however it’s important that this knowledge is continually developed, built on and shared. If it isn’t, the engineering industry could fall into disrepute as projects fail to meet requirements and faith is lost in the profession.

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